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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 1st October 2014 at 4:00 pm
Blackpool trio Darlia are known for their loud, brash style and heavy riffs, so today’s video comes across maybe not as a total shock but a definite surprise. Here is a live performance by their frontman Nathan Day, playing an acoustic version of the band’s upcoming single ‘Stars Are Aligned’ all alone.
The single will be released on the 27th of October on B-Unique Records.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 29th September 2014 at 2:00 pm
Despite not being a native New Yorker and living over 200 miles southwest of the place, I have been slowly but surely chipping away at my list of venues to see in the Big Apple. In the second half of last week, I finally got to witness London-based Teleman live, twice, during their first visit to our country and my first experience of the Mercury Lounge on East Houston Street. This review focusses on their first show in the Lower East Side, but later on this piece, I’ll briefly mention the differences between the two shows.
When I first arrived, slightly winded having just taken the train up from Washington and worried I was going to miss the start of their set, I was relieved to see they were still setting up. I’m not sure if this will continue, but the each member of the band – comprising ex-Pete and the Pirates members Tommy Sanders (vocals / guitar), his brother Jonny (keyboard / synths) and Pete Cattermoul (bass guitar) along with drummer Hiro Amamiya – is wearing a different shirt, each incorporating the three colours of yellow, red and blue that figure as dots on the abstract album art for their Moshi Moshi Records debut ‘Breakfast’ (reviewed by me here). Considering that since fashion-wise color blocks are still in, maybe they’re just ahead of this industry’s curve?
I think it’s always a precarious thing to go watch a band perform one of your favourite albums of the year. I do, however, always remember something Ed Macfarlane said a long time ago in a Friendly Fires interview, which was generally of the sentiment that your live show should bring something different to the table, because if someone wanted to hear the album reproduced faithfully live, they might as well listen to the album. I don’t know if you could blame the tentativeness in the first half of Teleman’s set on nerves, but the punchiness of first two songs ‘In Your Fur’ and ‘Mainline’ you hear on the album seemed not to translate live. As I was stood there down the front at Mercury Lounge, I noticed how crisp and clear the guitar notes sounded in the place, which seemed odd to me but amazing at the same time, if I compared it to the varying degrees of muddle I’m accustomed to.
Actually, muddling might have been a benefit to the set, as the conclusion of ‘In Your Fur’ was an extended psych rock out jam session. Similarly, insistently rocky ‘Steam Train Girl’ was also lengthened, much to the delight of the girls in front of me who were having a whale of a time, kicking their heels up to the music. The Teleman sound is definitely of the toe-tapping variety but not exactly designed for ravers. ‘Skeleton Dance’, arguably the most dancey of all the tracks on the debut album, with the brothers Sanders synths and guitar coming together harmoniously.
‘Breakfast’ most truly beautiful moments came across wonderfully live, as the trifecta of the bright yet regretful ‘Monday Morning’, the heart-pounding drums of past single ’23 Floors Up’ and almost nursery rhyme simplicity of the melody in ‘Lady Low’ in quick succession becomes the sonic equivalent of being simultaneously socked in the stomach and the heart. Sadly, due to the early show curfew, the set was cut short, with ‘Redhead Saturday’ not getting an airing until the next night at Glasslands in Williamsburg.
Still, quite possibly the crowning moment for those people so adamant that Teleman must be Kraftwerk obsessives (for the record, it’s not true, according to an interview Tommy did with Under the Radar magazine here in the States), hidden album track ‘Not in Control’ is directed by its beats, leading punters at both New York shows to bop to the rhythm and some cases, leaving them in a psych-ey, trance-like state that you wouldn’t see at a ‘pop’ show. I think the more the band tour this album, the better their set will be. Oh, and sorry to anyone who wants to request a Pete and the Pirates song, such as the couple who shouted for ‘Cold Black Kitty’. They don’t remember the chords.
After the cut: Teleman’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Teleman at Mercury Lounge, New York City – 25th September 2014
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 24th September 2014 at 4:00 pm
Brighton singer/songwriter Marika Hackman has some exciting news. She’ll be releasing her debut album ‘We Slept at Last’ in February 2015, composed of previously unreleased songs. One song that won’t appear on the new album is ‘Cinnamon’, as it appeared on Hackman’s ‘Sugar Blind’ EP, which came out in December 2013. Watch this mesmerising, stripped back performance of the song in the analogue-only Toe Rag Studios in London below.
Marika will be on tour in the UK in November.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 23rd September 2014 at 4:00 pm
Back in July, the Hospital Club in London played host to a brilliant Original Penguin Plugged In night starring American duo We Are Scientists and Scots Twin Atlantic. (Two lucky TGTF readers attended the show via us.) This afternoon we’ve got a live video from the night of We Are Scientists performing ‘Make It Easy’ from the night for you.
The song appears on We Are Scientists‘ fifth album ‘TV En Français’, released back in March. Watch the performance below. To watch Twin Atlantic performing ‘Brothers and Sisters’ on the same night, head this way.
In a student-heavy front room in a student-heavy part of town, only the sixth Newcastle Sofar Sounds kicks off. As regular TGTF readers will know, the idea of Sofar is to bring live music literally into people’s front rooms. In some parts of the world, the events are wildly oversubscribed, making a pass-in one of the hottest tickets in town. Newcastle has yet to reach such giddy heights of success, but it’s not for the want of quality acts. Acoustic troubadour and medical student Matt Hunsley hosts, his housemates and fellow students make up most of the crowd, and TGTF was there to record proceedings.
Suntrapp, aka Jake Houlsby, is that rarest of things: a professional musician. That is to say, he earns his living through playing music. Most acts one might read about in these pages are amateurs: they work other jobs in order to finance their music making. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that; the amateur artist has the freedom to work within any discipline and any style, regardless of its commercial appeal. Professionals, however, prostrate themselves before the altar of money, making or playing whatever their customer demands. Thankfully, tonight Houlsby the pro is appearing as his alter-ego Suntrapp, so we are spared the ‘Your Song’ cover. What we are treated to is a close-quarters set of his songs so far: the pretty ‘New Morning’ is a delicately-picked ditty showcasing Houlsby’s plaintive vocal style; more memorable still is the set-closing instrumental piece: a flamenco-inspired loop overlaid with some lovely mariachi flourishes, which apparently sounds great in a church.
What becomes apparent as Suntrapp’s set progresses is how reverent the audience are tonight. One could literally hear a pin drop. Given the recent complaints about the rudeness and ignorance of modern audiences – speaking loudly during quiet bits and being obsessed with selfieing themselves in front of the band – the atmosphere tonight comes as a refreshing and deeply welcome change. If anything, this is the biggest attraction of Sofar: because this is an invited audience, everyone is here to listen to the music rather than have their own little narcissistic party.
Brooke Bentham is even more sparse of guitar, but wonderful of voice. She ranges between dusky low pitch and delicate falsetto. ‘We’ll Be Ghosts’ is stunning in its minimal presentation; she really lets her spectacular voice rip towards the end of the song and it’s a thing of beauty. There’s a song about Oscar Wilde, which hints at literary pretension, and gives a depth to the songwriting that does justice to the presentation. Apparently she’s moving to London soon to study at Goldsmiths, where she will no doubt go onto huge things indeed.
And who is this headlining? Surely not Bridie Jackson and the Arbour, the Glastonbury-competition-winning folk four-piece? Yes it is, and they sound utterly wonderful. There’s Bridie with her guitar, there’s a cello, a fiddle (not violin, as I am corrected later), and a percussionist sat on a cajon and wielding some lovely obscure noise-making artefacts. ‘Crying Beast’ – apparently written about a tiny monster who enters a house via the letterbox and feeds upon the negative energy within until it takes up a whole room – treads a delicate path between light and dark; ethereal beauty and hints of discord live uneasily together, resolved by the final coda of “I’m shrinking as you grow”.
Tonight’s presentation suits such material perfectly – the pristine, note-perfect three-part harmonies are a wonder to behold at such close quarters; the bowed instruments are plucked in unconventional ways to variously mimic lead parts or give the impact of a bass guitar. In their mastery of traditional arrangements, twisted into thoroughly modernist songwriting, Bridie Jackson and the Arbour share much with fellow northeasteners The Unthanks, which is high praise indeed. They’ve got a new album out in ‘New Skin’, and are just about to embark on a tour of suitably unconventional venues across the country, notably the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead, attendance at which comes highly recommended.
Out of everything that went right tonight, only the venue leaves a little to be desired. Yes, it’s in a secluded corner of a leafy part of town, but a quick tidy up and brush of the feather duster wouldn’t go amiss, particularly in the bathroom. And how much does a bag of tea lights cost these days? A few throws and a bit of atmospheric candle-lighting would make things feel that bit more special from a visual point of view. To be fair, this is a student house, so on that scale it’s a palace; still, a variety of venue might make the Sofar offer even more compelling.
But that’s picking nits, frankly. Sofar offers an unmatched opportunity to see acts “in the raw” as it were, stripped of anything as vulgar as amplification. Vocals and instrumentation are as naked as their maker intended, which means they carry a tonal, and therefore emotional, impact rarely found at a live performance. Tonight is quite the most intimate and respectful night of music one could ever have the good fortune to encounter. Bring on next month.
All of Martin’s coverage of Kendal Calling 2014 is this way.
After Suede at Kendal Calling 2014, it’s time for Mr Scruff to funk the night away. The very definition of ubiquitous, the unassuming, ginger-bearded figure of Scruff is in real danger of becoming one of those strange beasts – the Super-DJ. Presumably only his down-to-Earth Mancunian work ethic prevents him from descending into David Guetta-style hedonism, a tendency encapsulated by his enthusiasm for a nice cup of tea.
The genius of Scruff’s performance can be summed up in three words: take your time. When thought of on the scale of an individual song, his build-ups give gentle but persistent encouragement. Each 2-, 4-, and 8-bar loop carry subtle variations: very rarely is anything repeated verbatim. The same attention to detail can be heard on the wider scale of a whole set: there’s an underlying breakbeat backbone to pretty much everything that he does, overlaid with various magpie samples and synth melodies.
There are occasional acid house tropes, like on 2011’s ‘Wobble Control’, where he threatens to throw caution to the wind and take refuge in cliché, but never does the temptation manifest itself into anything as common as a four-to-the-floor beat: he remains focussed on the funk throughout. The only criticism to be levelled at Scruff is that he’s a bit of a tease – because he’s so good at buildups, he won’t let himself really come to a climax, which as you can imagine can be somewhat frustrating. Indeed, some of his set tonight is dull to the point of becoming muzak. Only the ever-present childlike cartoon visuals provide something for the brain to do whilst the feet move as instructed by the beat, without any intervention of the intellect. Having said that, Scruff is the consummate professional and can be relied upon to get a tent jigging around like mad things, so perhaps repetition is indeed the essence of dance music. Who knew?
Etches are the lovechild of an electronica band and a conventional guitar-led indie outfit. Their songs are complex, structurally unconventional and melodically oblique. Being based in Liverpool, there’s naturally a hint of psych buried deep within their sound, all of which combines to birth a song like ‘The Charm Offensive’, which soars through the ether like a deranged seagull. The highlight of their set is a slowcore version of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, which is quietly astonishing.
If Etches have a hint of psych, The Lucid Dream have it running through their veins and printed through their marrow like a stick of paisley Blackpool rock. 2011’s ‘Heartbreak Girl’ is a noisy, scally cousin to Pink Floyd’s ‘See Emily Play’, with speed-ups and slow-downs galore and an utterly incomprehensible arrangement. Fast-forward to 2013’s ‘Songs of Lies and Deceit’, on which the folk-tinged lunacy gives way to full-on electric guitar stomp, absolutely swimming in reverb, echo and delay. Mark Emmerson swaggers around the stage like Liam Gallagher does in his own lucid dreams, when he imagines he’s actually cool and popular again. A somewhat bizarre melodica interlude notwithstanding (is there any less rock ‘n’ roll instrument than the melodica?) The Lucid Dream are perhaps the find of the weekend. A set of world-class psychedelia from a bunch of Cumbrian scallys – who’d a thunk it?
Perhaps I’m biased due to the Northeast roots of Gallery Circus, but by crikey they make a brilliant, cerebrally-challenging racket. To pigeonhole them as yet another novelty bassless duo would be in itself baseless; perhaps due to their being twins, Daniel and Graeme Ross have a psychic awareness of what the other is about to play, which means they are one of the most telepathically sharp bands one could hope to see. Their own songs are superb – from the patchwork virtuoso hard rock of ‘Supercell’, to the illegally funky white soul of ‘Club House Killer’, they know how to write a tune – and they know how to cover one too. Climaxing with a rendition of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ could be a recipe for disaster, given the regard in which the original classic is held – needless to say their cover is superb, respectful and note-perfect. They are well deserving of their BBC Introducing at Glastonbury shout this year – on this evidence, the first of many.
Razorlight were present and correct. An uncomfortable moment at the beginning of the set notwithstanding (Johnny Borrell’s guitar developed a fault in the first song and he spent the rest of it flouncing grumpily, directing evil stares at soundman and guitar tech alike), they sounded decent, looked every inch the sharp rock ‘n’ roll band, and nobody can deny the merits of their back catalogue. Quite what relevance they carry beyond being their own tribute band remains to be seen – Kendal does have a penchant for greatest hits sets – but Borrell remains a compelling frontman, and the crowd seemed to lap it up.
Most British nu-folk-rock is a load of old twaddle. See Amber Run in the first part of this review for further details. So how refreshing it is to come across a band who manage to combine a stringed instrument that isn’t a guitar into a coherence that doesn’t rely on discredited, worn-out tropes. The Mispers have a lovely driving sound peppered with elements of genuine English folk music. There’s a smart young lady playing a fiddle, the chap singing manages to pull off wearing nothing but a waistcoat, there’s electronica bubbling under the surface, and some decent electric guitar when circumstances demand it. 2014 single ‘Brother’ is a perfect case in point. A lithe violin figure frames a musing on family which builds to a firm climax without relying on the tired and tiresome quiet-loud-quiet structure (as parodied so brilliantly by Dion Beary in his ‘Every Mumford And Sons Song Basically’ video). The Mispers prove that folk-rock can be done properly, and, basically, prove how right I’ve been all along. Ha. Thanks, The Mispers.
And then Evil Blizzard arrived and the review must draw to a close at this point. No matter how many fireworks or dancing monkeys might appear later on in the festival, there’s no point in even describing them – in comparison with Evil Blizzard, they are nary a footnote in musical history, a pale imitation of what can truly be achieved with fancy dress, latex face masks and four bass players. If it was about the music, one could say something like, “‘Clones’ combines Rocket From The Crypt’s ‘On a Rope’ guitar riff, Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ key change and John Lydon’s Public Image Limited plaintive, detuned vocal howl to generate an ear-pounding four minutes of chaos.” But Evil Blizzard aren’t really about the music as such, in the same way that what you hear at a rave isn’t something you’d take away and sit down on your sofa and listen to with a nice cup of tea. It all only makes sense in context, with the perspective of appropriate surroundings, and more importantly, in the presence of other audience members, if only to remind oneself that what you’re experiencing isn’t some particularly cruel hallucination, a flashback from the previous night’s “adult disco”.
There’s no point in trying to describe what the band look like – words cannot adequately convey the psychological discomfort that their appearance engenders. They stand, staring, mute, firing chaos from their basses, challenging the audience to stay and imbibe rather than run and cry. The heavens open; the blizzard arrives. “Evil” masks are distributed, which is when things become further surreal. Children don the masks – we are surrounded by tiny, faceless, black-eyed beings, foreheads “Evil”-emblazoned, where just moments before there was a gaggle of carefree children playing in the mud. Some somehow end up onstage, invited to pluck bass guitars, and are then held aloft, in a celebration of the essential innocence of children, even when they are surrounded and encouraged by such ambiguous chaos.
The baby’s-head theremin is unveiled, the lead singer prowling amongst the crowd, inviting them to stroke it, and, inevitably, to lick the baby’s bare scalp – several ladies are happy to oblige, to a soundtrack of increasingly pained squeals from the baby. Bass guitars are offered around; the music climaxes; the frontman wanders off into the crowd to steal someone’s drink. Eventually the 20-minute ‘Whalebomb’ draws to a stumbling denouement; everyone slowly emerges from their bad dream, as if suddenly being woken from hypnotism, or stumbling to the end of a particularly bad trip. And for the select few who had braved the Evil Blizzard at Kendal Calling 2014, nothing would ever be quite the same again.
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